Reflections on the Resurrection

It was around the time that Jesus and His disciples were at Caesarea Philippi, when Peter made his great declaration of faith, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Matt.16:16 RSV) that the Master began to warn them that He must die and be resurrected. It was an idea that was totally strange to them and which they could not take in. It did not follow the pattern that they had been taught from childhood of how Messiah would establish God’s Kingdom. They expected that He would now restore the commonwealth of Israel and they, His closest disciples, would be with Him in that Kingdom. That Jesus would die could not be considered. They had a genuine blockage in their minds. He gave further warnings as they approached Jerusalem. These were reinforced by Jesus’ reply to the Pharisees’ request for a sign. He told them that the only sign they would be given was the sign of Jonah, which meant three days in the grave until He was raised. These warnings were sufficiently strong for the priests and Pharisees to warn Pilate "that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘after three days I will rise again’" and insisted that the tomb be secured. (Matt 27:62‑66 RSV)

It was the women who first saw the empty tomb and Jesus himself. They went to tell the disciples who received the news in disbelief. It seems that the women accepted the facts and understood what had happened more readily than the men, that Jesus was going to rise from the dead. The first record of someone meeting Jesus that day was Mary of Magdala. He just had to say her name in the old familiar way and there never could be another doubt in her mind. Like the other disciples, a bond of love had been forged in those years of Jesus’ earthly ministry, and His friends recognised certain expressions of love which were so important to them. "My sheep know my voice" (John 10:27 CEV) He had said to them; and they did know on Resurrection Day. The two walking to Emmaus, along the route to Joppa, expressed amazement and gave little evidence of having believed the women. As Jesus talked to them about the Hebrew scriptures, something held their senses back from recognising Him. Was it their unutterable grief at His death or was it His control of their senses or was it just that He appeared to be different from the familiar figure of the Master. When finally they were around the supper table the characteristic manner of breaking the bread suddenly opened their eyes as to who He was. Finally, He confronted Thomas, who until then had resisted all persuasion that Jesus was alive. John’s record of that meeting almost gives the impression that Thomas only had to see Jesus to be convinced. He did not really need to observe the holes that had given so much pain to that beloved Lord. He was overwhelmed.

We each move in a way peculiar to ourselves that distinguishes us from everyone else. Our way of walking or the way we hold a pen or pencil are special to us. Posture, tilt of the head, swing of the arms, all betray who we are and animals notice these things more quickly than we do, and they have the advantage of a more acute sense of smell and sharper hearing. Such characteristics are valuable because they help us to know a person. Jesus deliberately said and did things after His resurrection that would leave His followers in no doubt as to what had happened on that day. The experience to the disciples was the more telling and impressive to them because they had not believed that it was going to happen. It was an experience that would change their lives and the whole world. Not only their faith but the genuineness of their proclamation of the Gospel depended on their correct identification of Jesus.

Out at Galilee, in familiar surroundings of the lakeshore they went fishing and not for the first time, caught nothing. As the shadowy figure in the half‑light of dawn became clearer to them, they heard His voice. It was then that their minds went back to that day several years before when He had commanded them to put down their net on the other side of the boat. Now they realised who He was. "It is the Lord!" (John 21:7 RSV) Peter would not forget the first occasion of the big catch. It was deeply impressed upon his mind for he had been commissioned as an evangelist to go out and ‘catch men.’ Now the Lord was strengthening the call to become a pastor of the flock. Their task as apostles was to tell others what had transformed their lives and enabled them to do the wonderful things that occurred in Jerusalem and all the lands where the Gospel was preached.

Seeing Jesus after the resurrection was more than mechanical recognition. It was more than being given a new job to do. "The disciples were glad when they saw the Lord." (John 20:20 RSV) They were full of joy and ready for anything. It was that deep impression of the living Lord in their midst that spurred them on to witness and suffer for Him. Has He had that effect on us? Have we not seen Him at work through the power of the Holy Spirit? He is a living power in the lives of our brethren. Have we not recognised Him at work in ourselves, transforming and renewing us? He is the one who cares for us and spurs us on. Let us greet the Resurrection morning this year with a convincing "the Lord is risen indeed." (Luke 24:34 KJV)